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SOUTH AUSTRALIA. BEAU BRUMMEL AND GIBBON WAKEFIELD - ORIGIN OF SOUTH AUSTRALIAN
SCHEME-PROGRESS OF NEGOTIATION-ACT OBTAINED_CAPTAIN HINDMARSH GOVERNOR-RECALLED_COLONEL GAWLER APPOINTED_THE SOUTH AUSTRA
LIAN COMMISSIONERS—THEIR MUDDLING MANAGEMENT. TORD ALVANLEY‘used to tell a story of Brummel, whose cool
U and solemn assurance might have made him, had he lived in 1840, a king of railways, or a director of a colonizing companythat once, when stopping at a country inn, ascending the stairs, he met the Beau's valet descending with an armful of crumpled clean cravats. “ Pray,” he inquired, “ what are those ?” “These, my lord,” replied the valet,“ are my master's failures.” When the Beau emigrated to Calais, amongst other creditors, he owed an enormous bill to his laundress.
South Australia was the first, as Canterbury, in New Zealand, is the last, of Mr. Edward Gilbon Wakefield's colonizing failures—failures which have been tried at the expense of every class of capitalist, from a Republican banker to a Puseyite peer. But, his credit being now exhausted, it seems as if he would end his days without a good fit, thus sharing the fate of other unfortunate philosophers and financiers, like Law, Owen, Cabet, and Louis Blanc, with this difference, that those gentlemen all sacrificed something to their theories; they lost fortune, or character, or country; but Mr. Wakefield, while his disciples have suffered in purse and in person, has contrived to patch up a character originally much damaged, and build a living, if not a fortune, out of a series of bubbles.
When under the government of Sir Thomas Brisbane the advantages which New South Wales offered to emigrants began to be whispered about England, when from time to time persons returned home with great wealth, acquired by feeding sheep, under the care of white slave shepherds, and selling grain and beef to feed the troops and gaols of New South Wales,--a pressure was put upon the government for the purpose of obtaining grants of land which became extremely troublesome.
One of the last large grants was that to the Australian Agricultural Company of one million acres of pastoral and agricultural land, with two thousand acres of minerals and a monopoly of the coal-mines of Autralia, made in 1824; and in July, 1825, the directors report that “ his Majesty's government have determined in future, instead of giving free
grants of land, to put it up for sale according to a system similar in many respects to that adopted in the United States of America—an arrangement which will necessarily give an increased value to land in the colony."
In the mean time the colony of the Swan River had been founded, at a spot on principles and by persons which ensured its failure.
The continued prosperity of New South Wales counterbalanced the damp which the failure of Swan River would have cast upon any enterprise nearer home, and no sooner did the state of the money market show signs of that periodical boiling-over point which, in England, always results in some wild speculation, than several colonizing schemes were launched.
Had common sense ruled the consultations of our statesmen and philanthropists, they would not have allowed their anti-republican prejudices to have prevented them from studying and imitating the admirable system by which, for half a century, with trifling modifications, the vast territories of the United States have been colonized, cities have been founded, harbours constructed, railroads made, and canals cut.
Under this system the territories for sale are surveyed in advance, a map containing the land for sale is open to every intending purchaser, there are no reserves except for special stated public purposes, while parties settling beyond the bounds of surveyed land do so at their own risk, and have no power to inflict on the parent state heavy expenses in armies or officials. They are expected to govern and protect themselves, and to retire or purchase when the government surveyor makes his appearance. No doubt the American system has its defects, but, taken as a whole, it is the best which has ever been devised for employing a large emigrant population and conquering and subduing the earth, at the least possible public expense.
But in 1829 a great sensation was produced in the literary and political world by the appearance of a small book or pamphlet, entitled "A Letter from Sydney, the Principal Town of Australasia, edited by Robert Gouger,”* which was soon known to be the production of Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield. Out of this little book grew the colonization of South Australia and New Zealand.
The real author, on the strength of information communicated to him by two relatives, unsuccessful colonists in Van Diemen's Land and New South Wales, propounded, in clear, lively, homely, yet eloquent style, a new theory of colonization.
* All that we know of Robert Gouger is, that he was a Dissenter, of Republican opinions, who served some time in the French National Guard during the Revolution of July, 1830. He afterwards became secretary of the South Australian Society, and eventually Colonial Secretary in South Australia.
There are descriptive passages in the “ Letter from Sydney," such as the pictures of the Italian girl, the Australian girl, and the journey from Alexandria to Genoa, so beautiful, so true, so real, that one cannot help regretting, both for the sake of his own reputation and his numerous colonizing victims, that Gibbon Wakefield had not become a writer of novels and travels, instead of puffs, paragraphs, and pamphlets in praise of model colonies. But Mr. Wakefield had not only the charm of “style," he was energetic, tenacious, indefatigable, unscrupulous; he possessed a wonderful talent for literary agitation, which, when employed by tailors or blacking-manufacturers, goes by a more vulgar name; a Protean adaptiveness, which has made him successively the bosom adviser of Republicans, Radicals, Whig peers, Conservatives, and Low Church and High Church bishops. Beginning with Gouger, he has obtained the patronage of a Grote, a Molesworth, an Archbishop Whately, and a Bishop Wilberforce. Lords Glenelg and Lord Stanley, Aberdeen and Grey, have been more or less his pupils, while, so late as 1850, he led captive to Canterbury colony a crowd of educated victims. He has shaken a ministry, founded and distributed the patronage of at least two colonies, and almost thrown a third into rebellion. At one time he had secured the advocacy of nearly all the daily and weekly press, and of every economical writer of any literary celebrity. But, with all these extraordinary advantages, the results of his advice have been invariably disastrous. The disciples of his theories only continue his disciples as long as they remain in this country; no sooner do they become colonists than they renounce him and all his works.
Gibbon Wakefield has neither candour, nor truth, nor humility. Like the Bourbons, he forgets nothing, and learns nothing. In 1849 he published a thick book of 500 pages, called “ The Art of Colonization,” which, so far as regards the land question, is merely an amplification, in a feeble and diffuse style, of the theories so fervidly propounded in 1829. No one, on reading this bulky work, would imagine that the writer had had twenty years' experience, during which he had directed the colonization, on varying plans, of South Australia, Wellington, Nelson, and New Plymouth; besides planning half a dozen others in Port Cooper, the Chatham Islands, New Caledonia, and Vancouver's Island. Still less would any reader conceive that in these colonies no one of the cardinal results promised by the Wakefield theory had been realized.
The “ Letter from Sydney," by far the most brilliant of his works on colonization, which is now out of print, contains so good